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UVW members, including reps, outside GOSH

15.09.2022 / News /

UVW reps, building workers’ power at GOSH

At the end of July, United Voices of the World (UVW) members at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) elected workplace representatives (reps) for the first time. Ten reps were elected for all the shifts where UVW members work, which is the cleaner’s morning and day shifts, the evening shift, the weekend, the night shift, porters and security guards. These members are building their confidence and collectively taking up issues around workload and dignity at work.

Cleaners at the hospital, who are being brought in-house and put on NHS contracts, are ensuring they get all elements of the harmonisation of their contracts backdated to 1 April. Some of the cleaners have been told that their pay will only go up from 1 August, when they had been promised by GOSH Trustees that pay increases would be backdated till 1 April. UVW will stand by these workers while they fight for what they’ve been promised.

UVW reps are building working class power at the hospital. They met with the management and won some concessions which will improve the working lives of our domestic workers at GOSH. This is the first time these workers have met with their employers as elected reps and feel empowered to be able to represent members’ views to management.

Sam Osei, one of the two night shift reps for UVW members at GOSH, said: “Now we have reps on the night shift, when issues come up like bullying culture we have shown we can work together to improve the workplace. And we have claimed dignity for ourselves, winning the space to take our breaks properly.”

Management has agreed to address what’s perceived by workers as a culture of workplace bullying by some supervisors. In June over 40 members at the hospital signed an open letter complaining about the unacceptable behaviour of a night shift supervisor where evidence was presented that members had experienced the supervisor shouting and swearing at colleagues, kicking and slamming doors, talking in an angry and disrespectful manner and being aggressive and disrespectful. This is clearly in breach of GOSH’s ‘Dignity at Work’ policy. A collective grievance is now being heard and reps are encouraged that the issues are being recognised by GOSH Human Resources department.

Additionally, management has said they will review the process for banking hours to ensure it is fair for all staff over all shifts and challenge alleged favouritism in the allocation of bank hours.

There have also been improvements to break facilities on the night shift. In discussions with reps on the night shift, members reported they were being denied access to the canteen on their breaks and were being forced to eat their lunch on wards, rather than with their colleagues. The reps asked for GOSH to provide proper break facilities for night shift domestics so they can take their break away from the wards if they chose, without fear of threatening and aggressive behaviour from the supervisor.

As a result of the reps meeting with the bosses, cleaners and security guards are now able to take breaks in the front part of the restaurant and dining room for parents, visitors and in-house hospital staff. This arrangement was set to be reviewed after two weeks.

While this is a welcome improvement, the hospital continues to maintain a racialised two-tier system which sees outsourced and formerly outsourced workers treated as if they are second-class. Domestic workers at the hospital are not allowed to access the whole of the restaurant, like other in-house hospital workers.

There are still issues to be resolved, but the new reps are doing a fantastic job, representing members and working collaboratively so that domestics at GOSH are treated with dignity and respect. Go UVW at GOSH!

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